Oh, bigot cry morning,
but it is too late to change, poor children,
for their words only echo what you have taught.
Reluctant one, coarse and grate,
go mend your ditches and drink your harvest,
it is your prejudice that disturb the heart’s contentment.
Together with two dark boys on foot under a sharp Chicago sky,
they wander in and out of consciousness (but warrant no response),
only to be ridiculed from behind the closed window.
Struck down by conversations teeming with acronyms.
Our weak ears forced to listen to the difficulties,
by which you happily donate to the schoolyard, beat by beat.
A childhood robbed of its pleasures, deprived of running and playing,
merely arguable by the fate of our daily bread.
I heard the sound of your voice, casually suggesting accusations.
Befriending a crime is your chosen approach,
for you must take in order to banish the rocks from your path,
while upholding the nothingness, which you consider to be life.
Your hoary head rears, spewing unattractive complaints,
the luckless and weary ones begrudgingly listen.
Deluged and left divided by the reasoning that you project.
You cast your fears outward like a claw, only to intrude upon us.
Laying open your tasks corrects the despair of rejection and dismissal,
but you announce with sincere intention the inferior ones.
We are haunted by your performance, casting its spell,
Presumptuous and volatile and ever the inescapable liar,
attired in the necessary costume to scale a bloody Kansas wall.
Little ones sent to say: You just don’t know how hard it is to have two.
Why you ask of the given aggressiveness—just like a peevish child.
Ah, sing your song, you fool, I will love you tomorrow, I will love you tomorrow.
Kim Kolarich is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her fiction was long-listed for The Fish International Short Story Prize, and a finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Her stories have appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, FreeFall, Julien’s Journal, 3711 Atlantic, 34th Parallel, Karamu, Rollick Magazine, After Hours, The Gap Tooth Madness, Streetwrite, Intrinsick Magazine, Paragraph Planet, The Furious Gazelle, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Third Coast Magazine
Like a flotilla revenging World War Two
an army of Japanese KonMari acolytes
are assaulting the cluttered disorder
rampant in our consumer laden homes
Mari Kondo, their high Netflix priestess,
advocates testing possessions for sparks of joy
and if there are no sparks
they’re off to Goodwill
For many, Mari Kondo is the antidote
to an out of control modern life
and by following the KonMari method
your home becomes a sanctuary of order
Yet like a time-consuming sponge
order nurtures conventional thinking
and studies show randomness
can spark creative ideas
This repackaged Shintoism
would have castrated the creativity
of Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein,
and Steve Jobs who loved their messy desks
Somewhere on my desk are studies
linking messiness to creativity
but with so many paper piles
I am not sure where they are
Barbie Turns 60
Barbie you razor thin blonde
who mutilated so many body images
who worshipped consumption
of sports cars, fashions and dream houses
who dallied on and off
with Ken but never married
Of course, it’s easy to understand
the lack of long-term attraction
between the model “it” couple
Very photogenic, but missing
some major private parts
Now Barbie you have to realize
your frozen good looks
can’t last forever and
it’s time to face the reality
of hitting the big six o
and let some wrinkles show
and consider a plastic butt tuck
Soon Mattel will have to replace
your suburban dream house
with Barbie’s Assisted Living
No dream kitchen
just communal dining
No spacious rooms
just one room and
God Forbid a roommate
So, Barbie your lack of eros
may not have stimulated Ken
but capitalism will honor you
as the queen of consumption
who stimulated the economy
Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel Inc.
Sam Love lives in New Bern, N.C. which is as good a place as any to observe the drama that currently passes for Western Civilization. He has published and produced enough material in mass circulation media including Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazines that he has earned the right to be a footnote. After years of work with visual images and linear print he turned to poetry so people can make the movie in their head. His poems have been published in Kakalak, Slippery Elm, Voices on the Wind, The Lyricist, Flying South, Sleet and other publications. Eno published by Duke University has published six of his environmental poems and four of his poems have been featured on Poetry in Plain Sight posters throughout North Carolina. His latest poetry book, Cogitation, is available from Unsolicited Press. His illustrated children’s book My Little Plastic Bag is available in Spanish and English and has won numerous awards including a Nautilus Award. He is currently president of the New Bern local Poetry Group that organizes a monthly open mike.
If I had a white horse
with a mane you imagine
a horse should have when
riding it into the sheen
of what’s left of the moon
after a storm had taken
to it with electric carving
knives & a boom box
I would then ride into
my father’s building & say
Good boy Outlaw Boxcar
as that’s the kind of name
you give a horse when
you’re making amends
for being a punk instead
of a responsible son
& you take the fire stairs
five at a time the sound
of Boxcar’s iron shoes
on the cement like a tap
dancing competition broad-
cast into a tiled bathroom
& when you dismount
outside your fathers office
& knock like a gentleman
& say Dad it’s me I’m here
to be the son you never had
but wanted the corridor
going on into dark wood
& shadow then your father
is there filling the frame
of the door with a breaking
smile as he offers Boxcar
a palmful of coffee sugar
crystals then rubs his nose
& looks at me like a father
who knows his son has
come not home but into
the world of men You are
welcome here anytime
he says and then as if
an afterthought had set
off a roadside device
in his ear And next time
take the lift it’s big enough
for a clopper with a flame
for a mane and a son
with a horse-sized heart.
Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems, the most recent being ‘Headwaters’ (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016), which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Award for Poetry. He teaches Writing Poetry and Creative Writing at Griffith university, Queensland, and lives on Moreton Bay.
Two Indian waiters in snug tuxedos
sit on steps a few doors down from
their deserted restaurant—I just passed it—
sharing a smoke and quiet talk, talk that could
be about the coming end of their run there,
about what other jobs might appear, about
whom they should call or visit:
a strategy session.
Yet so spare and emphatic is their conversation,
its silences inhabited by blue clouds of smoke,
that between their middle-aged declarations
of determination they each may be feeling
an unsparing circle closing in; feeling the
dread approach of the night they fear most:
the night they take their tuxedos off and
never have cause to put them back on—
no more trips to the dry cleaners, no more
updating the bow tie; instead, back to wearing
the loose, patterned shirtsleeves of cab drivers
pulling 12-hour shifts spelled only when parked
to eat curry out of plastic containers from the Bengali deli;
hours logged making drop-offs at trendy, Pan-Asian restaurants
whose young, stylishly dressed doormen—the age of
their own sons?—come right to the cab to open then—
after the fares step out—turn away while
slamming the door.
Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com
We are only asking them to leave, quietly and without making a fuss—
these men, here and elsewhere, who refuse their assent to laws
the most wholesome and necessary for the public good;
who make new laws about what we may or may not do with our bodies and our votes
but refuse any rules about what they may do;
who hide behind plastic shields and make us weep in the public streets;
who bring their guns into our churches and synagogues and mosques;
who under cover of darkness dump their coal ash and mercury and lead into our waters;
who argue without end that there is not enough money in any budget
for wages that would cover the rent with some left over
for a pomegranate or a bunch of the bright tulips in buckets by the check-out lanes;
who at last repair our leaking pipes and then raise the rent
so we must find a new apartment with the same loose tiles in the bathroom;
who quarter large bodies of armed troops among us
and spend our money on walls that separate butterfly from butterfly
without care for the swallowtails, satyrs, emperors, leafwings and brushfoots
that have always flown freely according to their inborn migration routes;
who spend our money to construct walls that separate parent from child
and lose even the memory of where each has been held
while we still need to rebuild our rusty bridges;
who send our children to distant lands
without telling them why, or teaching them the words to explain why
they must explode a bridge that others labored to build
so they could greet their neighbors across the river.
We could keep going—the list of offenses is long and growing longer.
But isn’t this enough?
We ask them just to leave, and to close the door behind them.
Susanna Lang’s newest collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017 by Terrapin Books. Other collections include Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013) and Even Now (Backwaters Press, 2008), as well as Words in Stone, a translation of Yves Bonnefoy’s poetry (University of Massachusetts Press, 1976). A two-time Hambidge Fellow and recipient of the Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Bethesda Writer’s Center, she has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, december, Verse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She lives and teaches in Chicago.
We’re sitting in the Jimmy Johns
waiting for our foot-longs.
My father’s brand-new cane
a twisted length of black branch
every time he leans too heavy on it.
Outside a crowd gathers
around a Ford Mustang
with a kitten stuck
inside the wheel well, motor still
hot as black sand.
We ordered and paid
twenty minutes ago.
Two of the four teenagers
who run the place
stand outside wearing oven gloves
and one holds a box
to nest the kitten once she’s free.
My father peers
between window signage.
That’s a job for the fire department.
Someone call 911!
This music’s too loud,
Can we go someplace else?
Each time the door opens,
I fingernail pinch
the delicate skin under my arm
—to stave away
the slice of kitten’s
from deep the metal gut.
Katy E. Ellis
Katy E. Ellis grew up under fir trees and high-voltage power lines in Renton, Washington and is the author of three chapbooks: Night Watch—winner of the 2017 Floating Bridge Press chapbook competition—Urban Animal Expeditions and Gravity (a single poem), which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry appears in a number of literary journals including Pithead Chapel, MAYDAY Magazine, Calyx, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the Canadian journals PRISM International, Grain and Fiddlehead. Her fiction has appeared in Burnside Review and won Third Place in the Glimmer Train super-short fiction contest. She has been awarded grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and Artist Trust/Centrum. Katy co-curates WordsWest Literary series, a monthly literary event in West Seattle.